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Home on the Range: Summer garden harvest offers a cornucopia of menu choices

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Food Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Enterprise
(218) 732-8757 customer support
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Home on the Range, the new Enterprise food column that seeks to tap area resources - recipes and advice from "seasoned" cooks - kicks off with contributions from the newspaper's staff.

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With garden harvest underway, use for the bounty seemed an appropriate topic, be it for dinner tonight or sustenance when the winter winds howl, via canning.

In modern society, canning is considered a hobby. But for our ancestors, it was a matter of survival.

"The kitchen was a disaster," my mother recalls of my late Grandma Mum's rite of summer.

There were jars everywhere. And the kitchen floor resembled something of a yet-to-be-sampled trough, fruit and veggie peelings missing the intended refuse cans.

A wood stove claimed center stage, a stovepipe running across the ceiling adding to the kitchen's tropical climate.

Then it was off to the Morrison County Fair, where this mother of 10 always walked away with a handful of blue ribbons.

Her mending, wool specifically, also turned the judges' heads. Considered archaic today, mending was a bit of an art form in the first half of the 20th century.

Sewing was her forte. Prior to matrimony, she was invited to accompany a seamstress to Paris, where they would design and sew clothing for a wealthy woman. But she declined.

Small of frame, but large of character, fiery red hair was her signature.

When the sun set, all the kids in bed, she would work long into the night, sewing. Coyotes' howling was her entertainment.

Each spring, a new garden would appear on the farm, sometimes flowers, sometimes vegetables.

And each fall, about 200 quarts of canned goods headed to the cellar. Peaches, cherries and applesauce, from the farm's apple trees, would fill the jars. Chokecherry, currant, plum and raspberry jam lined the shelves, as did tomatoes, green beans and corn, beef and pork.

Lined up, the jars were a thing of beauty, Mom, Shirley Schneider of Walker, recall of their color and pattern.

"We always ate well, with no preservatives or additives," she said. This was long before "organic" was part of the vocabulary.

Grandma could chop the heads off chickens like a pro. And her pies were lauded by all.

Mom was well into her adult years when it dawned on her the location of the berry patch, a half-mile from home, may have had nothing to do with soil composition or sunlight.

It was Grandma's Shangri-La, a place of solitude, far from the mayhem of home.

By the time I made her acquaintance, she was living in South St. Paul, a widow. Her flower gardens were the envy of the neighborhood but her vegetables now came from the grocery store.

I remember eating her "store bought," dehydrated chicken noodle soup for lunch. Even at the ages of 4 and 6 my sister and I considered it a gastronomic atrocity. Okay, icky.

Sewing had once again taken precedence. Grandkids wore original, haute couture rompers and dresses. Coats never saw a single body; they were always refashioned for another member of the family or became part of a rug.

As I grew older, I would hear the stories of her wizardry, as a cook and as a hostess. Dinner was never a simple affair, with farm workers and guests often sampling the fare.

She considered etiquette to be a staple ingredient to meals.

Grandma's "Mother's Cook Book," copyright 1902, is part of my kitchen library. The pages are filled with newspaper clippings from the first half of the 20th century and handwritten recipes.

The cookbook affords a fascinating view of the era, with recipes ranging from fried oysters to "a pretty dish of venison" and advice on packing away furs and the "art of beauty in dress."

How I wish I'd known her - then...

Grandma Mum's

(Edith Miller)

Winter dill pickles

(The recipe, cut in two parts from a newspaper, prior to Scotch tape, is safety pinned)

100 cucumbers, medium size

1 small bunch red pepper

1 big bunch of dill

10 quarts water

1 quart of vinegar

Two cups of salt

Lay cucumbers in salt water over night. (1/2 cup salt and 4 quarts of water). Boil water, vinegar and salt and let cool overnight. Drain and wipe cucumbers and place in half-gallon jars, with a layer of dill now and then. Pack cucumbers tight and on the top of each jar, place a piece of red pepper, a tablespoon of mustard seed and pieces of horse radish root and a bunch of dill. Cover with the brine and screw down the cover. These will keep.

With a whisper of fall in the air, the time has come to harvest and prepare for winter.

Enterprise staff members offer some favorite recipes to sample.

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Submitted by Kathy Dennis

1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter

1 2-pound red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 12 cups)

6 tbsp. sugar

2/3 c. Balsamic vinegar

canning salt -1/2 Tbsp. or to taste

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add cabbage and sauté until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Add sugar and toss to coat evenly. Add vinegar. Reduce heat to low, cover, simmer until cabbage is tender, stirring often about 30 minutes. Put into clean pint jars and process (pressure canner, gauge to read at 11/lbs) for 10 minutes. (Three batches with 8 small heads makes about 11 pints).

Canned Jalapeños

Submitted by Kathy Dennis

6 c. water

2 c. cider vinegar

A bit less than 1/2 cup canning salt

Sliced Jalapeno peppers with seeds (do not remove the seeds)

Alum

Pack peppers in clean jars. Put a pinch of alum in each jar. Boil to a good rolling boil, the water, vinegar and salt.

(It won't hurt to taste your brine. If you need to adjust the flavor, you may want one ingredient more than another.) Pour over peppers and seal. No need to process. Wait six weeks before eating. Guaranteed, the flavor will beat any brand of jalapeos in the store!

My Favorite: Jalapeño Dust

Submitted by Kathy Dennis

Remove stems and slice jalapeños in thin slices; do not remove the seeds. Lay them in a dehydrator, for about eight hours or less, just make sure they are dried.

You may find the seeds have fallen to the bottom; save them. Store jalapeños and seeds in a clean quart canning jar.

As you need the jalepeño dust, put a few in a coffee bean grinder (I bought one mainly for this) and grind them to dust, including the seeds.

The dust has a wonderful flavor of its own, you can put it on any dish you like, from casseroles, soups, chili to salads. It just gives you a great flavor - with bit of a bite.

Mom's Canned Tomato Soup

Submitted by Betty Norlin

8 quarts of cut up tomatoes

1/2 bunch celery with leaves chopped

6 large onions, chopped

1 c. chopped, fresh parsley

Put all in large pot and cook until soft. Put through Foley mill or sieve. Add:

1 c. sugar

1/4 c. salt

At this point I put it in the fridge overnight. There's usually water on top that I skim off.

Cream together 1/2 lb. soft butter with 1 c. flour. Stir into tomato mixture and cook until thick.

Be careful not to scorch the mixture.

Can, using pressure canner.

To use, add an equal amount of milk. Heat and serve.

Makes approximately 10 pints.

Spicy Yogurt Potato Salad

Submitted by Betty Norlin

4 c. diced, cooked potato (fresh from the garden w/skin is best)

1/2 c. chopped celery

1/4 c. chopped green or red pepper - use both to make a pretty presentation

1/4 c. chopped onion

1 tbsp. (or to taste) chopped pimento

Combine all and top with the following dressing. Chill and serve.

1 tbsp. horseradish

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. or more, brown mustard

1 c. nonfat plain yogurt

Combine horseradish, salt and mustard. Gently fold in yogurt.

Jardinière

Submitted by Candy Parks

Yield: about 6 pints

3 medium green peppers cut into strips

3 medium onions sliced

1/2 head of cauliflower (broken into florettes)

5 medium carrots sliced approx. 1/8 inch

6 stalks celery sliced approx 1/4 inch

4 banana peppers cut into strips

1/2 lb mushrooms cleaned and sliced approx 1/4 inch thick

2 to 4 jalapeños peppers seeded and sliced, more if you want hotter

Brine:

1 cup sugar

2 tbsp. fresh pickling spice

2 tsp. dried oregano leaves

1 tsp. peppercorns

1 to 2 cloves garlic minced

1 tsp. canning salt

1 quart cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

Prepare all vegetables and set aside, Combine the brine ingredients and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Add vegetables and simmer until just tender. Pack hot vegetables into hot sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. Ladle hot liquid over vegetables, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two- piece caps. Process 20 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Pass the recipes, please

We now are asking for your favorite summer recipes - fresh, frozen or canned. A bit of history or advice will be considered for publication, as well.

The recipes will also appear online.

E-mail submissions are preferred, but legible handwritten or typed recipes will be accepted.

E-mails may be sent to jeanr@parkrapidsenterprise.com, dropped off at the Enterprise or mailed to Park Rapids Enterprise, PO Box 111, Park Rapids, MN 56470.

Please include a name, phone number and city. (The contact information will be for Enterprise use only.)

Phone inquiries or comments may be directed to Jean Ruzicka at

732-3364.

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Jean Ruzicka
(218) 732-3364
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